Theatre. We. LOVE – Ensemble Studio Theatre’s “Year of the Rooster”

“YEAR of the ROOSTER” – An EST/Youngblood Production – Eric Dufault asks you to “WAKE the F*#K UP!”

Year of the Rooster - Ensemble Studio Theatre - NYC - Theatre. We. LOVE. - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

The EST/Youngblood production of Eric Dufault’s ‘YEAR OF THE ROOSTER’ begins its extended run January 2014.

Theatre. We. LOVE at the Angel Orensanz Foundation sits down with the cast and crew of EST’s production of “Year of the Rooster.”

by: Zoe V. SpeasThe Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

The wintry months of January and February mark my second anniversary with the City of New York. Most of my time was spent with one hand gripping onto the handrail of “back home” while I tried to skitter around the perimeter of the city on borrowed ice skates. I’m still here, surviving, but it has taken all of those two years for me to come around to letting go of the rail. I have let go, and it’s due almost entirely to the three-month-long relationship I’ve had so far with the Ensemble Studio Theatre/Youngbloods production of Eric Dufault’s Year of the Rooster.

Year of the Rooster - Ensemble Studio Theatre - NYC - Theatre. We. LOVE. - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the ArtsAs you’ll see by the title of this blog and subsequent headers, the point of my post is to tell you about all the brilliant, hilarious, inspiring things that the creative team of Rooster had to say when they generously sat down to talk to their fan (me) for an interview. I will do that. I promise. And let me tell you, sitting around a modestly-sized conference table surrounded by people whose transformations into warrior-roosters and  power-hungry McDonald’s managers – it can be pretty overwhelming.

Not to mention the fact that proximity to playwright Eric Dufault (in all of his humble, talented niceness) kind of makes you torn between wanting to hug and bake for him or beat his brains out in a jealous rage. At least then you could see close-up what the brains would look like of someone who can invite his audience into the world of cockfighting and middle-America and give it the grandeur of gladiators fighting in a Roman coliseum.

Grandeur, I need to add, made possible by director John Giampietro‘s excellent choice to underscore the action of the play with classical symphonies and fugues by Ludwig van Beethoven.

Ensemble Studio Theatre - Year of the Rooster - Theatre. We. LOVE - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

Playwright Eric Dufault has always had a strong connection with animals, and much of his work incorporates the idea of “talking animals”, including the ongoing production of ‘YEAR OF THE ROOSTER’ at EST.

“I’ve always written plays that involve talking animals, including chickens,” Eric told me. He explained that he grew up surrounded by animals as a kid, chickens and roosters included. “But I read this book called Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some we Eat and that sparked the idea for Year of the Rooster. It included a section on cockfighting.”

Here’s a kicker. Rooster was the first play he’d written for the Youngbloods.

“I write pretty quickly,” he said.


Anyway, so this relationship – this three-month-long relationship I mentioned having with Year of the Rooster, it began back in the fall when the nightshift bartender from my favorite local pub – McCoy’s, on 9th Ave in Hell’s Kitchen – showed me a graphic postcard advertising for the show at the Ensemble Studio Theatre. It’s this very image (at the top of this blog), the one of a rooster devised entirely out of matchsticks scorched to various degrees, that now graces the front of the program for the show.

The postcard instructed me to “Wake the F#$k Up.”

Which, honestly, I hadn’t managed to do yet since moving to the city two years ago. I figured I could use the caffeine.

Year of the Rooster - Ensemble Studio Theatre - NYC - Theatre. We. LOVE. - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

Ensemble Studio Theatre presents: Eric Dufault’s “Year of the Rooster”. Above (left to right): Delphi Harrington, Bobby Moreno. Photo Credit: Russ Kuhner

“The energy of this piece – it’s not something you watch. It’s something you go through,” EST’s Bobby Moreno said to me later. Bobby plays the character of Odysseus Rex aka ‘Odie.’ He’s the rooster you root for, the one who wants to murder the sun. You know. That one. “The structure of the play and the way the audience is arranged around it creates an inescapable intimacy in the experience.”

In other words, Dufault’s storyline and Giampietro’s direction wakes you the f$&k up.

By the end of the show, I was doubled over in pain. My stomach muscles were on fire with the pain of laughing way too much and way too loudly.

I didn’t know where I was for much of the production. We sat in a small, intimate theatre on the second floor of the EST building on W. 52nd, but with just a few, sparse blocks of furniture (and an amazingly accurate recreation of a McDonald’s restaurant), I was transported to middle-of-nowhere Oklahoma. Yet it was the physicality of the actors like Denny Dale Bess, an EST member since 2000 who plays Dickie Thimble in Rooster, as he strode through the space, cowboy-booted with a massive ten gallon-hat that transformed the location for me.

The production was so grounded and sincere in its commitment to each given circumstance – circumstances that grew more and more ridiculous and tragic as the plot progressed – that I forgot the Rooster world was one we can all agree is not “of us.” It’s an “other” world. Cock-fighting. Isolation. McDonald’s (both as an employee and gentically-modified chicken aka the brilliant Megan Tusing, I might add).

Year of the Rooster - Ensemble Studio Theatre - NYC - Theatre. We. LOVE. - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

EST’s “Year of the Rooster” – From left to right: Thomas Lyons, Denny Dale Bess, Bobby Moreno. Photo Credit Russ Kuhner

Suddenly, we’re all from Oklahoma. Which we are, in our own ways. We’re all from that town, the one Eric Dufault creates with the characters of Gil Pepper and his aging mother, Lou. With Philippa and Dickie Thimble.

Of course, Denny’s family actually does originate from Oklahoma, I learned later in our interview, and these ties created a special bond for him with the environment of Rooster.

“I know these small towns,” said Denny, “each character in this piece is a part of my family.” In fact, the actors and Eric told me Denny’s relationship with Oklahoma was in large part the reason for the creative choice to isolate the play in his home state.

 But my wake-up call continued.

Year of the Rooster - Ensemble Studio Theatre - NYC - Theatre. We. LOVE. - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

From the Ensemble Studio Theatre production “Year of the Rooster.” From left to right, Thomas Lyons and Bobby Moreno. Photo Credit Russ Kuhner.

I was already shifting uncomfortably in my seat by intermission as I realized I was watching something happen that I dreamed was possible someday for my own writing, my own performance. The stagecraft was genius, reality grounded, characters as specific and genuine as ink-stamped fingerprints. I won’t go on and on about the beauty of the roosters when they really start to rage. It’s like watching a fully-staged battle scene in the opera, Carmen, but it’s just two guys and a bucket of feathers. You have to see what fight director Qui Nguyen came up with for the fight scenes in Rooster. You just have to.

But the wake-up call, it continued long after I had exited the theatre, having trouble focusing on my feet as I descended the stairs to the street, program clutched in my fingers.

I remember calling my mom (because who else do you call when you have one of your twentysomethings’ revelations about life?) as I walked to McCoy’s and telling her I’d found artists, real artists – the ones that create universes out of nothing, the ones who give everything of themselves to it without a thought. As much as I felt it, as a witness, imagine how the actors feel it every night they come together.

“I’ve never been involved in a cast where they show up two hours early to a call to do a line-through,” said Megan Tusing (seen below) during my sit-down. “They never do this show at less than 110-percent.”

Year of the Rooster - Ensemble Studio Theatre - NYC - Theatre. We. LOVE. - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

EST’s “Year of the Rooster” – from left to right: Megan Tusing and Bobby Moreno. Photo Credit Russ Kuhner.

Stage Manager of Rooster Eileen Lalley, who calls such a tight show every night that I’m barely conscious of the passage of time, quickly added to this. “I’ve seen this show over a hundred times. I never get tired of it. I never sit in the dark checking my email, killing time. I can’t. The show always changes every night.”

EST member Thomas Lyons (Gil Pepper) pointed to his face, which had a pretty impressive shiner on the day of our interview and said, “Look at my face. This show doesn’t work on cruise control.”

Year of the Rooster - Ensemble Studio Theatre - NYC - Theatre. We. LOVE. - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the ArtsYear of the Rooster - Ensemble Studio Theatre - NYC - Theatre. We. LOVE. - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

EST Member Denny Dale Bess in “Year of the Rooster” as Dickie Thimble. From the Unfiltered Production.

Watch Thomas for ten minutes as he battles with Megan, Denny, and his deliciously degrading mother played by the fabulous Delphi Harrington, and you see what he means.

EST has been operating for over forty years in New York City, developing new theatre in America to the tune of 6,000 new titles throughout their history. Programs like Youngbloods for playwrights under 30 serve to keep this mission alive.

We’re not blind to it. Budgets hurt. Theatre suffers as we suffer as the economy suffers, and there are no gymnasts flying from the rafters of EST dressed in spandex and shooting webs from their wrists.

I know I sat there among the actors and creative team, gushing about EST and Year of the Rooster, without a real clue of the difficulties and challenges behind keeping even such a historic company as the Ensemble Studio Theatre afloat.

I know, I know. I know. It’s tough. It’s tough as nails. We’re all roosters in a ring in New York City, fighting the biggest, meanest mother of a bird we’ve ever been up against.

But that art like Rooster can exist? Can be born into the world of commercialism on stage and celebrity-driven box office revenue and survive? And thrive? Here?


I guess it’s time to let go of the hand-rail, Zoe. It will all skate right past you if you don’t.

 Like I said, wake-up call.

Year of the Rooster - Ensemble Studio Theatre - NYC - Theatre. We. LOVE. - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

EST’s “Year of the Rooster” left to right: Bobby Moreno and Thomas Lyons. Photo Credit Russ Kuhner

So it’s been three months now, and I’ve followed with proud fanaticism the progress of the extension of Year of the Rooster at the Ensemble Studio Theatre. I see the team passing through McCoy’s every now and then and each time I unabashedly sprint towards them and repeat the same garbled lines of “being super excited to see it” when it re-opens.

They’re mercifully patient with me, but I think it’s because we see the same thing when we see that rooster devised of burned matchsticks. We see possibility. We see fire and power and drive. We see the future of art and theatre. And despite the cold and the money and the work and the fatigue, we know that we’re a part of it.

We’re part of that message that EST and thousands of other theatre artists are screaming throughout New York City:

Wake. The. F#^k. Up.

Year of the Rooster - Ensemble Studio Theatre - NYC - Theatre. We. LOVE. - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

Year of the Rooster - Ensemble Studio Theatre - NYC - Theatre. We. LOVE. - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

It is time to be outside (artful weekends)

Finally, it is Friday! And it is time for the Angel Orensanz Foundation blog to share suggestions for what to do in New York City this weekend, because we want you to have a very artful one.

First off start Saturday with Summer Streets! Along the route (that goes from downtown Lafayette St to uptown Park Ave) you will be able to enjoy Urban Art, provided by DOT(New York State Department of Transportation), like LOVE TV by Australian artist Rebecca McIntosh and art producer Victoria Johnstone an interactive work that explores people’s love for places, individuals and things; Bench Press by BroLabCyclo-phone by Marcelo Ertortguy and Sara Valente, a bike-powered band of musical instruments and Bus Roots by Marco Antonio Castro Cosio, a mobile garden. To see the whole schedule for summer streets in New York City, just click here.

After strolling along this route, you can make your stop on Central Park to enjoy some music. The bands Carolina Chocolate Drops, Buckwheat Zydeco and Abigail Washburn, in their Summerstage performance at 3 p.m.. To check the whole schedule for Summerstage, just click here.

Don’t feel like being outside? No worries, you can head to Brooklyn to enjoy the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival, in St. Francis College, features 54 independent filmmakers—both first-timers and Hollywood vets—who have lived and worked in the borough. To check the schedule, just click here.

On Sunday, how about a trip to MoMA to enjoy the opening of The Quay Brothers installation? Titled Quay Brothers: On Deciphering the Pharmacist’s Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets the exhibition showcases the London-based godfathers of alternative animation Stephen and Timothy Quay better known films, never-before-seen moving image works and graphic design, drawings, and calligraphy.

Don’t feel like going uptown? No worries, there are many places to see art in NYC. Take the ferry to Governors Island where you can enjoy “Graphic Design now in Production” an exhibition of posters, books, magazines, typography, branding and film and television graphics created since 2000, organized by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York City and displayed on building 110

Finally, the Downtown Dance Festival starts this weekend; you can see the schedule here. Also, The Fringe Festival is back for another year! The calendar is here.

And last, but not least, we hope you have a lovely and artful weekend and we want to remind you , a month (and 2 days, to be more exact) from  now we will be presenting Angel Orensanz’s Burning Bronze exhibition in our gallery! You shouldn’t miss it! More info is coming soon, so get excited!

Art in New York City (artful weekends)

Finally it is Friday! And, we here at The Angel Orensanz Foundation are pleased to serve you up our selection of several of the art events going on in NYC this weekend.

First off, this is your last chance to go see Telettrofono, the audio walking tour that sound artist Justin Bennett and poet Matthea Harvey created for Stillspotting NYC: Staten Island, a program by the Guggenheim Museum. The sound tour intermingles history and fantasy as it takes you along the waterfront, mixing ambient sounds from the borough with invented noises to pay homage to the unacknowledged inventor of the first telephone, Antonio Meucci, a Staten Island resident of Italian descent.

In another borough of New York City, more specifically Brooklyn, you can enjoy Target First Saturdays in the Brooklyn Museum. This Saturday is Caribbean Rhythms, starting at 5:00 p.m.  While you are there, don’t forget to go up to the 4th floor of the museum to see the exhibition Playing House, set in the popular American period rooms. Since the rooms become a little less exciting after the first time you go, the museum decided to give a white card to four artists to create new life inside the space. Mary Lucier added videos, Betty Woodman and Anne Chu opted to add polka-dot ceramic shards and bouquets, and Ann Agee decided to transform an 1850 parlor into a sculpture workshop.

On Sunday, it looks like it is going to rain, so how about staying inside? So how about the inside  of Guggenheim? Where you can enjoy the critically acclaimed Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective.  The Dutch photographer knows how to manipulate and she makes it all look really natural, portraying images of teenagers with such reality that they transport you into their universe.

Don’t feel like seeing still images? How about a movie? Head to the Anthology Film Archives for a screening of Free Radicals: A History of Experimental Film, a documentary that explores avant-garde cinema, showing rare interviews and movie clips that can make you fall for the style. From filmmaker Pip Chodorov’s own description: “I wanted to share a few of the films I love and introduce you to some of the free, radical artists who made them.” Or you could stroll north to Lincoln Center to watch A Heart In Winter, by the French director Claude Sautet, a love and jealousy story between a violin maker, his business partner and a violinist.

sources: artinfo, guggenheim, nytimes, brooklynmuseum,

The hidden art treasures on NYC (part 2)

The Angel Orensanz Foundation blog has already shared with you some of the not so known art gems in NYC. And guess what? Today we are revealing a little more about the hidden art in town, so you too can enjoy it!

Lets start off in Queens, in the Queens Museum of Art, the museum holds a 9,335 sq ft scale model of New York City and is also, one of the museums holding the exhibition CARIBBEAN: Crossroads of the World, that highlights more than two centuries of rare works that include paintings, sculptures, drawings, books, films, photography, video and historic artifacts from various Caribbean nations, Europe and United States.

The Queens Museum of Art also offers Target Passport Fridays, a free weekly outdoor program that showcases dance, music and movies from various parts of the globe in the museum.

After strolling on Queens, how about Washington Heights? Walk on the Fort Tryon Park until you find The Cloisters, a branch of the MET that holds the art and architecture of medieval Europe. A favorite there is The Unicorn Tapestries, a group of seven wall hangings that show a mythological hunt and capture of a unicorn.

But its is not only the art that calls attention to this place, it is the spot itself, a stunning four-acre setting that overlooks the Hudson River and holds the building that incorporates elements from five medieval cloisters and is set for many movies.

Another “secret” art gem in NYC is the Rubin Museum of Art. This place is the premier museum of Himalayan art in the Western world, holding a great collection of Asian art, that ranges from religious shrines and sculpture of ancient days to a modern portrait gallery of Indian artists.

The Rubin Museum of Art also hosts the K2 Friday Nights. With a nice Happy Hour from 6 to7, a evening DJ and unique thematic gallery tours and programs. Another perk of this museum? Is really close to the HighLine Park , so you can stroll there and participate on their art treasure hunt.

A weekend of art in NYC

Finally it is Friday, and to celebrate we are going to share with you ideas of what to do here in NYC. Since it will be a sunny weekend, go up the rooftop of MET to enjoy Tomás Saraceno Cloud City, a modular structure made out of transparent and reflective materials. The components create mesmerizing illusions and you can climb the stairs within the structure to the uppermost modules to have a whole new perspective. But, before you go, make sure to check the museum guidelines for the exhibition here.

While in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations at the Met, a fashion focused exhibition that compares two great fashion designers from different periods in time, but with similar views. And did you know that The Angel Orensanz Foundation had it’s fair share of fashion too? Alexander Mcqueen, one of the greatest designers of our time showcased his first American fashion show right here!

After the MET, head out Downtown to Pier 16 to enjoy a night of dance with the US premiere of the Canadian choreographer Sylvain Émard’s Le Grand Continental. A piece of contemporary dance outdoors that brings together 150 new yorkers in a big dance choreography. After watching the show, you can start dancing too, for a DJ dance party will follow, this time with wordily known Chico Mann that brings Afro beat and Latin styles together to make you dance like no one is watching.

On Sunday, make your way to Brooklyn to enjoy some more art in the Brooklyn Museum. Start with Keith Haring: 1978 – 1982, an exhibition that celebrates the early years of one of the best-known American artists of the 20th century. The Morris A. and Meyer Shapiro Wing holds 155 works of the artist on paper, videos and archival objects from Haring‘s career. After enjoying this talented American artist, go down to the forth floor for some sculptures in the exhibition Rachel Kneebone: Regarding Rodin, in which the British artist alongside her works with French master Auguste Rodin. Showcasing 15 pieces from Rodin and eight from Rachel Kneebone the exhibition highlights her shared interest with the French artist for representation of mourning, ecstasy, death, and vitality in figurative sculpture. The centerpiece is Kneebone‘s largest work , and was inspired by Dante‘s Divine Comedy as The Gates to Hell, from Rodin was.

To finish the day, you can stroll down to the Brooklyn Bridge Park to enjoy Photoville in Pier 3, where you can appreciate photos in over 35 containers in the photography village created by the idealizers of the project. Finally, if you still have energy, enjoy a free screening of Jaws in The habana Outpost.

We hope you have a great weekend!

sources: designboom, brooklynmuseum, brooklynbridgepark, metmuseum, rivertoriver, artjetset, nymag

A little bit of France in the Bronx

One of the most popular attractions in France is now in New York City. The New York Botanical Garden brought Claude Monet famous gardens from Giverny to the Bronx.

The exhibition “Monet’s Gardens” recreates the place were the impressionist French painter spent the last years of his life, translating to the canvas his stunning garden, the water lilies he loved so much, the Japanese bridge over the lake, the colorful flowers.

You can stroll around the Eunid A. Haupt Conservatory and enjoy the stunning collection of flowers, a mirror of what Monet saw in his own gardens. Gardens he took special care of. The artist took proud in his place in the French little town and even sold his plants, in fact, you can see the receipts of same of his exchanges in the Rodina Gallery. But that is not the only thing you can see in this part of the Botanical Gardens, two rare paintings of Monet are there for the exhibition, one of them never before shown in the US.

The Conservatory is beautiful and it is easy to see how Monet was inspired by his home in Giverny, the New York Botanical Gardens makes a truly lovely homage to the french artist.




Bronx River Pkwy, New York Botanical Garden, New York

Phone: 718-817-8700


Opening hours:

Tue–Sun 10am–6pm


Subway: B, D to Bedford Park Blvd or 4 to Bedford Park Blvd–Lehman College,

then take the Bx26 bus; or Metro-North to Botanical Garden


$20–$25, seniors and students $18–$22, children 2–12 $8–$10, children under 2 free. Grounds only $10, seniors and students $5, children 2–12 $2, children under 2 free; Wed 10am–6pm, Sat 10–11am free.

Sources: ctpost , nybg, timeout